get a better justice for your money

get a better justice for your money

That everyone is equal under the law is high-minded piffle. Justice certainly does not do what it says on the tin. If you trust in that one, let me introduce you to the fairies at the bottom of my garden.

Some years ago when setting up my business in Spain, I reasoned I needed a very good accountant since I was unfamiliar with local tax laws and requirements. My lawyer suggested a colleague of his who had been a tax inspector for the ‘Hacienda’, Spain tax authority. Who better than a game-keeper turned poacher to advise me on my tax affairs?

There was then, many years ago, a value-added tax called ITE, Impuestos de Trafico de Empresas. It was an infant to today’s VAT at only 2,7%. It made little difference to my clients if their invoices were 100 pts or 103 pts. Nobody bothered about such a small increase on the net price. But my new accountant established the business did not need to bother with it; we were exempt.

About seven years later we were subject to a random tax inspection where it was established we had been breaking the tax laws by not charging and paying ITE. We received notice of a hefty fine and seven years back tax of ITE plus 20% on top for late payment. Seven years turnover in any business is not peanuts. It was a severe financial blow.

Still confident in our position I contacted my accountant, grateful he had been chosen with such forethought years ago and confident in his resolution to the problem. Of course, he said, don’t worry, I’ll take it up with the tax inspector. We’re old mates, we’ll soon sort it out. And they did. They both agreed his original advice was wrong and the business would have to pay the fine.

Furious, I went back to my lawyer with the idea I’d sue the accountant for professional incompetence. Oh no, said my lawyer, sorry – not possible. Lawyers and accountants were not liable in such cases. They were professional advisors and the person receiving the advice was not obliged to follow it but that person was responsible for the actions they took after receiving the advice – pay the fine and keep quiet.

As you may imagine, I was not best pleased. I had taken all the steps to work within the law, my clients would have been happy to pay the extra 2.7% on their invoices and we would have paid it to the authorities. Yet still I ended up a loser whilst those responsible sailed off unsullied into their professional sunsets.

In high dudgeon, I returned to my office where I ran into a long-standing client. A splendid old duffer, now retired but previously a crown court judge of some note on the UK circuit. “What’s up with you, son?” he said. Despite my middle years he always called me son or lad. I didn’t mind, he was a great guy, gave me no unnecessary trouble and paid his bills on time.

I briefly outlined the reason for my outrage to which he responded, “I’ve been a high-court judge for many years. I’ve seen more innocents sent to jail and more rogues getting set free by the justice system than you’ve had hot dinners. Don’t expect justice in this world, and be grateful if you get it in the next”. With that splendid homily, he turned and went on his way.

Justice has a price tag

Don’t expect justice in this world and be grateful if you get it in the next.

Those words have remained with me as a sharp lesson in life ever since.

Money and power have their hands firmly locked on the scales of justice. Try taking the drug company to court if you get a bad reaction to one of their medicines, or maybe you fancy your chances against your local bank when they make an error that costs your dear? Being right doesn’t matter.

Where do the best accountants and lawyers work? For clients who pay them the best fees and retainers. How many professionals of this ilk do you think Bayer and your bank have at their fingertips? Even if they know you’re right, they’ll extend the issue for months if not years before it gets to court safe in the knowledge their defence budgets pockets are far deeper than yours.

If you persist anyway, at the eleventh hour they’ll settle out of court with compensation. The last thing they want is a precedence judgement against them, there may be many others equally slighted after you.

Rememember those wise words:

Don’t expect justice in this world and be grateful if you get it in the next.

modern democracy is a scam

modern democracy is a scam

 

So you think you live in a democracy. You don’t. You think you get to choose the person who represents you in your government. You don’t. Here’s the reasons why.

you don’t choose, you vote

Your choice of the eventually elected person was from a bunch of candidates that were preselected for you – by somebody else. So, in reality, you don’t get to choose from the candidates, you get to vote for one of the pre-chosen. Ah, you say, but I voted for an independent. Okay, so well you might have, but did he win? How many successful independents are currently serving in your parliamentary body today? Very few. So let’s deal with the distraction of independent candidates.

so-called political independents

Like lottery winners, they do exist. They have a common trait, both are almost as rare as pink unicorns with three legs. In any partisan government, they’re more often than not an interesting oddity. Only in the times of a hung parliament do they occasionally feature. And even then, they are bought and sold for favours and allegiance to others. Hung parliaments make for very strange bedfellows and fidelity is never the name of the game.

we’re having a party

To be elected to any national governing body costs time, effort and a lot of backing – not to mention money for promotion on the pre-election campaign. This is why groups of potential politicians get together to form political parties. Those of similar views can then pool resources, infrastructure and affiliates. Unfortunately, they also have to share common policies as well.

And these views are more often than not thrust upon them by their party machine. Candidates for any party have to be ‘selected’ by their local party committee who adhere very closely to the requirements of central party headquarters. If you don’t strongly uphold the views and policies of the party you don’t get selected. And if you don’t get selected it’s unlikely you’ll get elected – as an independent. Back to three-legged unicorns again.

bring out the whips

Regretfully, it gets worse. A party candidate with severely blinkered views gets elected to a parliamentary seat. When he takes that seat in hallowed halls of parliament he meets some guys called the party whips.  Their job is to keep their party members on the ‘straight and narrow’ path of party policy. Who dictates that policy? Certainly not the new boys just elected.

Oh no, that pleasure is reserved for the party leader and his mates. This small cabal of battle-hardened politicians sold their souls for power and profit many moons ago. They lay out the way it’s going to be, and all the other party members are there to make up the numbers when it comes to a vote.

how to join the club

Oh sure, you can get your views listened to but be sure such a high favour will require a quid pro quo in the not too distant future. Mutual back-scratching is the name of the game. So how does a newly elected member get up the slippery ladder of influence in order to get a shout on these lofty levels? By years of faithful service to the party, of course. Following the party line, supporting the whips, favours and obsequious obedience to those running the party. That way you not only get promoted, your local party committee keeps selecting you, and you keep getting elected.

Simple! That’s the way it works. But where are the views, needs and representation of the voters in all this? The guy they got to vote for was pre-selected for them. When he got elected he had to vote as he was told and before he ever got to follow his own ideas and principles he had been fully converted into a professional politician serving his own ends.

now try and deny it

Go on, tell me it’s not true. So much for your democracy. Do stop fooling yourself – you know it’s a put-up job. Voting every four or five years does not make you safe and secure in your soft, seductive nest of western democracy. It’s a scam. Do nothing and it will go on for another century or so. Never was it more true, than today – a democracy always gets the government it deserves. Do little and you get little in return. Don’t pay attention to what goes on and you’ll get little attention to your own needs.

two steps to utopia

It can be improved. It can be made fair and representative. The first big step would be to take money out of the election equation closely followed by taking it out of lobbying post-election. Just those two would make an enormous difference.

that money in your bank account is not legally yours

that money in your bank account is not legally yours

On those happy occasions when we have too much cash, we take it to the bank for safe keeping. It’s an event so mundane it’s hardly worth comment. We just wish we had reason to do it more often. We stand in line, eventually get our turn at the window and hand over our cash. Numbers are typed into a computer system and mostly, we get a receipt. Job done. We leave the bank and get on with our day, content in the knowledge our cash is safe and being well looked after. Or is it?

what’s yours is mine

Well, maybe not so well looked after as we might like to think, or even have been led to believe. The truth of the matter is the moment you hand over your money to the cashier it becomes the legal property of the bank. As Michael Caine would likely say, ‘There’s not a lot of people know that’. The bank may now do whatever they wish, with what was a few moments ago, your money – even go down to the local casino and blow it on a black-jack game. You have no legal recourse to prevent it. As soon as you paid it in, your money became legally theirs, all that remains for you is an entry in the record of your transactions more commonly known as your bank account.

that’s daylight robbery

No, it’s not. That’s the law. The bank does not have any legal obligation to repay you, there is no contract. All they have is an undertaking, a promise, to repay pay you that amount when you request it or to pay it on to another person following your instructions – by way of a cheque or credit card transaction. The key point here is that promises are not legally binding in most courts of law.

northern rock

not so easy to get your money back

This is why when a bank is in trouble and cannot cover its liabilities it quickly prompts a ‘run on the bank’ – everybody rushes in to take out their cash again before there’s none left. When there is none left, that’s it – the bank collapses unless it can borrow more from somewhere else to meet its liabilities – this is known as a bailout if it comes from the government (read taxpayers cash – the government doesn’t actually have any money of its own – it’s all yours).

When a bank does go bankrupt and is taken into receivership any remaining assets are sold off and the proceeds divided up between the bank’s debtors. It may come as another surprise to you to know that regular account holders are very much down the bottom of that pecking order for any of the leftovers. Way before you come the stockholders with preference shares and a whole bunch of other corporate interests. Accounts holders frequently get nothing.

but when I default, they take my house!

Sure they do. When the shoe is on the other foot and you owe the bank money, things are completely different. Did you actually believe, in all innocence, it would be a just system?

Cast your mind back to the last time you got a loan from the bank. A mortgage for house purchase is a classic example. They check out your creditworthiness, can you pay them back, do you have steady well-paid employment and are you of age and in good health such that you’re going to be around to pay them back? Is the asset you’re using the money for worth that much? Can it be easily liquidated if necessary? They do all this before even considering giving you money. Did you do the same checks on them before giving them yours? I doubt it.

But to continue, the next step in getting your loan is to sign the mortgage deed. This is a contract. And contracts are very much enforcible in law – lawyers thrive on them. So you see the banks and financial institutions are pretty cute when it comes to doing business.

There’s nothing hidden about these protocols, it’s all out there if you do some research. But the financial guys make sure they don’t make a lot of noise about it. They much rather you trotted in and out of their establishments in blissful ignorance. It’s better for them that way.

But now you know. Check out the following links for further information:

 

Gestation of a Book Cover

Gestation of a Book Cover

Books, just like kids, adapt and change their outside appearance as they grow to maturity. It’s still very much the same inside, but the outside goes through significant changes as they develop.  And that’s how it’s has been with my latest book due for publication mid-September 2019.

It started as Fairy Tales for Grownups, a title while still appeals a lot to me today. It may well transform into quite another book itself as it carries a mystery and intrigue more appropriate to other content and themes.

As the current book grew, it developed with sombre and serious themes. Trickery and Machiavellian methods in modern society surface and the concept of fairy stories, while still apt, was not as a sufficiently dark level to accurately reflect the plots and nefarious duplicity.

The title changed to Deception for Power and Profit – short, sharp and relevant.​

The material was turning out to be for more than anticipated. Once the research really got into gear, a great deal more than expected floated into focus and on to the page. This was going to be a door-stopper if it ended up as one book. And so, there was another change. It would be split into three sections, and these would be published as short-ish eBooks. A series of separate covers were developed, and these can be seen reflected in earlier posts in this blog.

All remained calm for a while. Little could be heard except for the clatter of typing keys and the swish of reference books. Gradually the mountain of words rose upon the page, finally finishing with fifty-four chapters and 120,000 words. That seemed to work okay – giving and average eBook for each section of around 40,000 words equivalent to something like 160 digital ‘pages’.

Then the editing began. Once again, I’m reminded of Mark Twain and his, ‘Had I more time, I should have written less’. Modern-day editors say, ‘Kill your little darlings.’

When you look at that splendidly massive heap of manuscript on your writing desk or screen, you’re much more likely to lean back in your chair and smile smugly, than you are to pull out your editing-sabre and start slashing. An author’s words are like children, and no one in their right mind goes around killing kids. That first glow of a finished manuscript is magical.

Like a young mother cradling her first child, you hold it in your gaze for the first time. Thousands of words march across the pages like battalions of well-drilled soldiers, those words over which you laboured for so many months, appear tinged with some mystical beauty. It’s a natural mystery which both writers and mothers are only too familiar: fulfilment.

Consequently, it’s a tad more than tricky even to notice our mistakes, much less draw razor-sharp red pens and cover the page in bloody amputations. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that such bloodletting is just about the only way to prevent the predictably long-winded phrases, bloating, and general hubris that inevitably find their way into all of our first drafts.

This is the point it should quickly go to your editor. You are in no fit state to be in control anymore. You are very much ‘under-the-influence’ as the police would have it.

Nobody likes red-lines all over their work. You didn’t like it when your teacher at school did it, and you certainly don’t appreciate your editor’s efforts – after all, you are the one who’s footing that bill! After the initial shell-shock, you know they are right. Lingering author’s PTSD will never entirely disappear, but the remaining manuscript has undoubtedly improved. Hopefully, your ugly duckling has grown into a beautiful swan.

And so, it was, my 120k words were reduced by a third to just over 80k. Trimmed of stodgy fat, now fully fit, it was in full racing trim. But, there’s always a but, isn’t there – it was a mite short for a three-eBook series. Change gear again, the three sections remain but get merged into a single one book, both in digital and print format. This means those book covers go out the window – more darling atrocities.

While it was all passing through the torture-mill of editing, I’d begun to have doubts about that title. There was always a tagline: What You Don’t Know About What You Think You Do. A sneaky little thought popped into the back door of my brain, could this be a better main title? No, of course not, much too long. But the thought wouldn’t go away. There was only one thing to do – market research. It got trotted around friends, on and offline, and the upshot was the title and tagline got flipped.

The new cover for the single book started to form. It was a significant improvement on the earlier series versions. Focusing on the print version first, I ended up with the one still seen on this home-page of this website. I still like it today. But it would never work in a digital version which would eclipse Pinocchio and lose the surprise as a potential print-book reader switched on to the front and back cover-connection. Ebooks don’t have back covers, back to the drawing board.

The latest incarnation is what you see at the beginning of this post. It still has a lot of the mood from the earlier print-book version along with the essential asset of being suitable for digital. So, there you have it, that is where we are today. Tomorrow, who knows?

There could be something very different about you as an author or your book if, during gestation, it never changes. Sometimes such metamorphosis is dramatic. This should not worry you. It’s quite normal and, as I have found, even healthy. Let your work grow. Listen to its vibes.

Both of you will be the better for it.

know your bezos onions

know your bezos onions

It’s quite typical to start a small business in a garage. It’s less common to start one in a penthouse office-suite in downtown Manhatten. But it is genuinely unique to start one in a garage and then grow it to the colossus which is Amazon. Yet there were always the right marketing genes in the DNA of the nascent online empire we know today.

Jeff Bezos began selling books, virtual books, which he didn’t actually own. His only help was family members. At the start, he arranged for books sent out to have an autographed bookmark thanking the purchaser and wishing them a good read. This signature was not printed; it was actually signed, in ink. I know this to be so since I was a very early adopter of the Amazon system. To this day, I have a small collection of these bookmarks.

Books in Spain at that time were costly; even today, they are not cheap. Not unreasonably, they were also in Spanish, a language which I didn’t speak at the time. Further, the sparse range of English titles was unlikely to be about this new Internet thing which was then taking the tech world by storm. If you wanted Don Quijote, the local bookshop might well help you out. If you wanted the latest online material by post, you went to Amazon. Postage was high. Books were air-shipped to Spain from the USA, but Amazon’s purchase price couldn’t be bettered. It balanced out and, if you were prepared to pay FedEx, it was incredibly fast. I could get a response from Amazon quicker than a snail-mail from the local town hall. In fact, come to think of it, I still can.

I’m well aware these, ‘I was there when…’ stories cut little ice – such as ‘I had a brother-in-law who went to school with Margaret Thatcher’ (also true), but in Amazon’s case, following the company’s growth, I picked some handy tips. Once Bezos’ company got really started online, it soon became the website to emulate. Its efficiency and user-friendly design was a veritable design beacon to others. If you wanted to see what an excellent online sales website looked like, there was no better place than Amazon.

There then followed a whole string of ground-breaking features, like one-click purchase buttons, copied and used to significant effect by so many other selling websites today. Get clients to add their data once and then re-use it automatically every time they made a purchase. Finding what you wanted was fast, buying it was even quicker, and you could get next day delivery to your front door if you needed it. The products were good, the prices were right, and the delivery was exceptional. They could have been selling fridges to Eskimos, it didn’t matter, with an ethos like that, it couldn’t fail. And, of course, it didn’t. Like Topsy, it just grew and grew.

Which brings us, when it comes to book sales, to another of the Amazon killer-features – the look inside. The ability to read a chapter or two before buying was a masterstroke. Let’s return for a moment to the off-line world, the local bookshop. You’re in there browsing the books. Mostly you’ve come to the section which most interests you. A title catches your eye, and you take it down from the shelf. You look at the front cover, then turn it over and glance at the stuff on the back. From there, you might browse the table of contents, and finally, you’ll flip the book open and read a couple of paragraphs. That is the staircase to the heaven of a book sale.

Your buyer needs to pass, one step at a time, through the process before they decide and carry your book to the checkout. Amazon does all of that. They give you categories to search, book covers to view, synopsis to read and almost always the ability to read a few pages and the chapters list. Meanwhile, there’s that one-click button hovering over there on the right, eager to take your order.

If you want to sell your book, on your website, with anything like the success of Amazon, you must offer the same features. Today these are not luxury add-ons; they are essentials. PdePages will be glad to help you every step of the way. Odd though it may seem, I’m not after your money. But I do need your help; I need you to do the things I’m not good at, like social media. Equally links between our websites costs no money and little effort, and we both get to take another step towards getting known.

There’s no commitment, no strings and no payment either way whatsoever. The day that our deal no longer works for you, just let me know. I’ll be sad to see you go but, as we all know, circumstances change and we must all change with them. If you’re interested, want more details, or you are just plain nosey, then check out the links below and get in touch.

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